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scrottie (4167)

scrottie
  scott@slowass.net
http://slowass.net/

My email address is scott@slowass.net. Spam me harder! *moan*

Journal of scrottie (4167)

Friday February 16, 2007
08:05 PM

Printers still suck... the Brother HL-2070N

[ #32432 ]

Backstory: I had a HP LaserJet III for a while. It jammed a lot and took lots of power... the lights dimmed when it came on (never really had power problems before in here). But it died, giving a code for a bad main board/bad powersupply. Replaced parts until it worked it. It died again. Had three toner cartridges and a pile of parts in the garage. Just threw it away. Was sad. Decided to buy a new laser. Got the Brother HL-2070N.

The HL-2070N is a networked laser printer with a list price of $250 that routinely shows up for $100. What a bargain! And it gets great reviews, though most of the reviews stomped nits with "but the price is so good!".

Office has a networked laser printer (something highend) and it was super nice to be able to use. Would kick things over there now and then and have a stack of papers of data I needed handy all the time.

Here's where the hate starts: dozens of places all over the 'net boasted about this thing having "BR-Script", which is a PostScript emulation. If I had read Brother's site more carefully, I'd have realized that it probably doesn't, as Brother doesn't list it for this printer. So, here's a network printer that requires you to use one or another device driver for an existing printer (which is insanely obnoxious from my point of view, but the Windows dickheads are apparently quiet used to), or worse, emulate that shit using Linux or Mac. No PostScript. I wasted all day trying to get PostScript to work because the admin has options for it. Even doing test files with every emulation disabled except PostScript, it still just printed out the text of the PostScript commands, with the characteristic text running off the page and blank page after black page appearing.

Okay, so it's not really a PostScript printer. I shouldn't hate it. But it *knows about* PostScript, so couldn't it handle it more gracefully than wasting one page and running dozens more through? It's a 133mhz Sparc with 16 megs of RAM that emulates a dot matrix printer among others. It should have some brains. We're getting closer to the heart of the hatred here.

THe LaserJet III that died and got tossed with its replacement parts had a small LCD screen a tedious user interface of a few buttons and two lines of text that was still very nice to have. This Brother has no such output, only four LEDs, two of them centered around more products that Brother tries to sell you off their Website. Besides stopping printing when the paper is out, it stops when the toner is low (okay, so far so good), or when the drum has reached its service life. Okay... but the drum has its very own LED. And it won't print until you go buy another one. For nearly the cost of the printer.

It has one button. That button doesn't do anything in particular. It takes it back online when its offline, supposedly, but I haven't found a case where this worked. So when you print to this thing (because printing to network printers is done in PostScript, as God intended), it spews out countless blank pages and you can't stop it without turning the power off.

Are printer computers just emulating the Office Space printer as an example, where the things have obnoxious, unusably minimal interfaces that give you no option to tell the to stop spewing wasted pages? For all of the intelligence built in to this thing, and all of the computing resources, the only way to make it stop wasting paper (since it won't not waste it in the first place) is to power it off.

So my day looked like: changing some settings or the example PS, trying to print again, mashing the button or holding it down to no avail, turning the printer off, turning it back on, spending several minutes unjamming it, repeat.

As far as a real review... it's amazing it's so cheap. I feel bad for the Chinese workers that work so hard for so little pay to make something that sucks for software reasons. Brother tried to hard to get the specs up. It's a laser diode printer. It doesn't have the insanely sharp print of a full on laser no matter what they say. It's just a little jaggy, even in text with a built-in scalable font (like the default one that prints the PostScript instructions it was supposed to execute). And it's made almost entirely out of plastic. Everywhere are little metal screws holding two plastic parts together. It's a bit bigger than it looks but there's nothing wasted either. It straddles the paper tray which goes from front to back. It takes the paper at a 180 degree angle in front from the tray, moves it to the back of the machine where it gets bent at a 90 degree angle to go past the drum then at another sharp 90 degree angle out into the output hopper. The reviews say it doesn't jam and it seems to work (except when I forcibly power it off) so this surprises me. My LaserJet III (granted, it was a few hundred thousand pages past its kit upgrade page count) had a very straight paper path and it jammed all the frickin' time.

Another way Brother was way over eager to pump the specs was speed. They boasted it gets that first page out in 10 seconds. It does not. It flips the breaker. Unless you move it to its own 20 amp breaker. Sharing a 20 amp breaker with two computers and an LCD monitor caused a bad enough brownout that the computers crashed and rebooted. Fucker! Even the antique LaserJet III, which was an absolute hulking beast, didn't draw so much current turning on or coming out of power save. I suggest buying a printer made by a less insane company.

On the up, it has a nice Web interface (it DHCPs itself, just nmap -p 80 -T Insane yourip/yournetmask and it'll show up on the list as a machine with a Mac made by Brother (viola!). That lets you configure and control everything.

Summary: like a Yugo that's good for 50k miles rather than 20k, this thing would be universally branded a total piece of crap by everyone except it actually kinda works, which is unheard of for the price. Don't pay full price what ever you do. It's got the start of a nice network printer in its Web interface, but the useless button and four lights on the thing, as well as lack of PostScript, ruin it as a network printer. Network printers can't have the power switch being the main means of controlling the thing. And putting it on a network is going to cause it to waste a fuck of a lot of pages as frustrated users try to print not understanding the concept of a non-PostScript network printer -- especially us Linux and Mac weenies. Brother is obviously taking a loss on making the thing, and are follow the lead of the inkjet makers (hated! hate hate hate..), giving away the printer but making it back on cartridges. I didn't read anywhere that it won't let you refill the toner cartridges, but it's probably on their minds at least, and when it comes time to replace the drum (enforced by the printer), you bet that you'll have to buy it from Brother. This thing left some people feeling happy; it left me felling hollow, with the excessive power thrist and lack of PostScript, which flipped it from being "a good deal for the price", rubbing in the general cheapness of it, making it feel like an expensive piece of shit. And Brother keeps listing Linux in public places, even though the printer ships with no mention of it, and they supposedly have binary drivers on their site for Linux. *sigh* Frustrated.

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